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Axum Obelisk

Axum Obelisk

Axum or Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia that was the original capital of the kingdom of Axum. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places. It has a population of 56,500 (2010) and is governed as an urban woreda. Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from about 400 BC into the 10th century. The kingdom was also arbitrarily identified as Abyssinia, Ethiopia, and India in medieval writings. In 1980 UNESCO added Aksum's archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites due to their historical value.

Located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region near the base of the Adwa Mountains, Axum has an elevation of 2,131 meters. Axum is surrounded by La'ilay Maychew woreda.

The major Aksumite monuments in the town are stelae. These obelisks are around 1,700 years old and have become a symbol of the Ethiopian people's identity. The largest number are in the Northern Stelae Park, ranging up to the 33-metre-long (3.84 meters wide, 2.35 meters deep, weighing 520 tons) Great Stele, believed to have fallen and broken during construction. The Obelisk of Axum (24.6 meters high, 2.32 meters wide, 1.36 meters deep, weighing 170 tons) was removed by the Italian army in 1937, and returned to Ethiopia in 2005 and reinstalled July 31, 2008. This stele was already broken into pieces before being shipped. The next tallest is the 24-metre (20.6 meters high above the front base plate, 2.65 meters wide, 1.18 meters deep, weighing 160 tons) King Ezana's Stele. Three more stelae measure 18.2 meters high, 1.56 meters wide, 0.76 meters deep, weighing 56 tons; 15.8 meters high, 2.35 meters wide, 1 meter deep, weighing 75 tons; 15.3 meters high, 1.47 meters wide, 0.78 meters deep, weighing 43 tones. The stelae are believed to mark graves and would have had cast metal discs affixed to their sides, which are also carved with architectural designs. The Gudit Stelae to the west of town, unlike the northern area, are interspersed with mostly 4th century tombs.

Other attractions in Axum include archaeological and ethnographic museums, the Ezana Stone written in Sabaean, Ge'ez and Ancient Greek in a similar manner to the Rosetta Stone, King Bazen's Tomb (a megalith considered to be one of the earliest structures), the so-called Queen of Sheba's Bath (actually a reservoir), the 4th-century Ta'akha Maryam and 6th-century Dungur palaces, the monasteries of Abba Pentalewon and Abba Liqanos and the Lioness of Gobedra rock art.


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